Treating Cracked Teeth

Online Dental Education Library

Our team of dental specialists and staff strive to improve the overall health of our patients by focusing on preventing, diagnosing and treating conditions associated with your teeth and gums. Please use our dental library to learn more about dental problems and treatments available. If you have questions or need to schedule an appointment, contact us.

Commonly Asked Questions:

I am allergic to latex. Is this a problem?  No, our office is latex-free.

My office just took an x-ray, why do you need to take one?  The more information we gather, the better we are able to care for you and your tooth. Our digital imaging program also allows us to measure the tooth, helping us to treat the tooth more quickly during treatment.

Will I need a crown after my root canal?  Do not be surprised if your dentist recommends a crown when you return to them. The tooth is weaker after root canal treatment and a crown is able to protect against breakage or fracture. If you already have a crown, you may only need a permanent filling.

Will there be pain after the root canal?  You should expect some minor biting and pressure sensitivity for 3-5 days after the root canal treatment. Over-the-counter medications, such as Ibuprofen or Advil, should help alleviate this.

What options does your office offer to help me relax during my treatment?  We are equipped to offer Nitrous Oxide Analgesia, also known as laughing gas. This affects everyone differently. Some patients get very sleepy on nitrous, while others are simply more relaxed. We can also offer intravenous moderate conscious sedation. for more information, please visit our Sedation Options page. If you are interested in either of these options, we would be happy to discuss it with you at your consult visit.

Why do you place a temporary filling?   You will be sore after your root canal treatment. We prefer to place a filling that is occlusally reduced so you do not bite too hard on it while you are healing. You will heal much quicker after treatment if the tooth is not occluded on.  Also, by waiting to have the permanent filling placed, we are better able to diagnose what could be causing symptoms later on.

Why can't I just take Antibiotics?  Antibiotics are carried in the blood stream to problem areas in the body so they can do their job. After a tooth has died, there is no blood flow into a tooth so the antibiotics never reach the source of the problem. Even though antibiotics do not solve the underlying problem, they can still be useful in relieving symptoms.

Types and treatment of cracked teeth

Here are the most common types of tooth cracks and how they are treated:

Cracked tooth
A fully cracked tooth usually involves a crack extending from the chewing surface down to the root. Pulp damage is common in an untreated cracked tooth. Root canal therapy, followed by crown replacement, is performed to repair the damaged pulp and restore the tooth. If a crack extends beyond the gum line, the tooth may need to be pulled.

Craze lines
These are tiny cracks on the outer enamel and generally minor in nature. They usually do not require any treatment and are only cosmetic.

Fractured cusps
Fractured cusps are small cracks on the pointed part of a tooths chewing surface. This weakens the structure, and often leads to pain, tooth fracture, and in rare cases, damage to the pulp. A weakened cusp may break off by itself or have to be removed. A replacement crown normally resolves the problem and root canal therapy is usually not required.

Split tooth
An untreated cracked tooth sometimes splits a tooth into two or more pieces. In many cases, a portion of the tooth can be saved by endodontic treatment and general dental restorative procedures.

Vertical root fractures
These are cracks that originate in the tooths root and extend upward to the tooths chewing surface, and because they often do not cause pain they are hard to spot. Vertical root fractures can sometimes lead to more serious problems. They often are spotted after surrounding bone and gum tissues become infected and inflamed. Removal of the fractured root through endodontic surgery may save the tooth, but often, the tooth may have to be extracted.

Long-term viability of a cracked tooth
Unlike bones, the fractures in a cracked tooth do not heal, and may continue to progress even after endodontic treatment. While endodontic treatment and crown restoration will prolong the life of the tooth, in time, the tooth may eventually have to be extracted.